St. Thomas Rutherford Sees Record Number of COVID Patients


St. Thomas Rutherford is seeing higher numbers of patients with COVID-19 than they saw in the fall and last winter. They have more patients than they have critical care units, and they have moved the extra patients to surgery recovery, going back to asking patients to curtail any elective surgical procedure in the near future.

“I would never have predicted that today we would have 119 COVID cases in the hospital,” said Gordon Ferguson, President and CEO, Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital. “Last week we had 145 cases.”

Of the 119 cases, 28 are on ventilators. While they saw patients put on ventilators last year recover, the Delta variant is very different and the likelihood of recovery is significantly less. While patients are initially helped by the ventilator and seem to improve, they then fade very quickly. A trend that is being seen across the country.

Younger Unvaccinated Adults are Getting Really Sick and Dying

With this surge in cases the average age of those in the hospital is mid-forties, while last fall the age of the average patient was over 65. And the average age of those passing away from the disease currently is 48. Ninety-six percent of those in the hospital are unvaccinated.

What is killing 30 and 40-year-olds across the nation is the inflammation that the virus creates, according to Dr. Hady Lichaa, interventional cardiology specialist with Ascension Saint Thomas Heart.

“It can take six months or more to recover because of the inflammation,” said Lichaa, “and the chronic fatigue syndrome.”

The COVID-19 Delta variant has also been creating more blood clots and fluid around the heart, which weakens the heart muscle.

Just as before, patients with COVID can have no visitors. They are left alone during a very scary time. They can only communicate through cell phones and tablets.

“I am going to make a plea,” said Ferguson, “no matter what your politics, please believe in the…science that vaccines are making a difference. Get vaccinated.”

Increase in Pediatric Patients in Hospitals

There is also an increase in pediatric patients, which Saint Thomas has been sending to Vanderbilt’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. This variant is much easier to catch, and much more aggressive. While kids who caught the initial Alpha variant may have had minor cold like symptoms at the worst, most were asymptomatic. With Delta variant, more unvaccinated children are needing to go on oxygen.

“The CDC has determined that the Delta variant is as contagious as chicken pox – and much more contagious than small pox or flu,” according to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center website.

Symptoms in children now being seen include breathing difficulty, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of taste and smell, massive headaches and muscle aches, a fever over 100.4 and changes in behavior.

Unvaccinated More Likely to Get Sick and Die

According to the latest information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Studies so far show that vaccinated people are eight times less likely to be infected and 25 times less likely to experience hospitalization or death. Vaccines remain effective in protecting most people from COVID-19 infection and its complications.”

“However you can help us in the community [to get the vaccine message out],” said Lichaa, “we’d really appreciate it.”